Jackson County Opinions...

SEPTEMBER 25, 2002

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 25, 2002

Falling Reservoir Exposed Flaw In Allocation Plan
The declining level of water in the Bear Creek Reservoir up until last week revealed a fundamental flaw in the water allocation formula that needs to be fixed.
The agreement among Athens-Clarke, Barrow, Jackson and Oconee counties, 25 percent of the water in the reservoir belongs to Jackson County. Athens-Clarke is entitled to 44 percent, Barrow owns 19 percent and Oconee 12.
Based on the premise that the lake should produce 53 million gallons per day, that would entitle Athens-Clarke to withdraw just over 23 million gallons per day (mgd), while Jackson could take 13 million gallons per day.
In the days before tropical storm Hanna dropped seven to nine inches of rain on the area, Athens-Clarke took its 44 percent entitlement at least 10 days, while Jackson County was taking about 1.2 mgd. Actually, among them, Barrow, Jackson and Oconee counties were probably averaging less than 4 mgd.
Had Hanna not appeared, the drought continued and water consumption rates held, Athens-Clarke would actually have used nearly 85 percent of the reservoir's capacity by the time the water ran out. Jackson County, with an entitlement of 25 percent, would have actually used a scant 4.4 percent of the water.
That's because when the intercounty agreements were made concerning entitlement share and cost, they were all made on the assumption that each partner would use its full entitlement. But at this early stage, only Athens-Clarke is operating at capacity. Jackson County is a few years away from needing 6.3 mgd; Barrow and Oconee are in similar situations.
There is another complication. Elton Collins, chairman, and Jerry Waddell, superintendent, of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, think Athens-Clarke has been withdrawing more than its 23 mgd entitlement. Their position is that Athens-Clarke should pay for the extra water they think it used.
But the odds of getting Athens-Clarke to pay some kind of compensation to the other counties just because the other counties are not as thirsty seem slight. Athens-Clarke, after all, will use the reservoir only when it cannot pump water from the North and Middle Oconee rivers. It seems improbable given our recent drought history, but in a time of above-normal rainfall, Athens-Clarke could go a whole year without using any of its entitlement from the reservoir. Still, its monthly share of the amortization would be the same.
The attorneys, county commission chairmen and other members of the Upper Oconee Basin Authority will have to work out the handling of all of the possible scenarios. For now, they should all, particularly Athens-Clarke, be thankful that the reservoir was there during the past three months and that Hanna provided relief from the falling reservoir levels.
Each county should also start looking for more reservoir sites and implementing permanent water conservation measures. We have learned this year that in a severe drought, we could go many months without enough water in our rivers and streams to meet current needs, let alone those of the future. Prayer for more rain wouldn’t hurt either.

The Jackson Herald
September 25, 2002

A move toward zoning?
It’s certainly not being called zoning, but it looks as if Nicholson leaders are finally moving in that direction.
The city council is preparing a land use plan which will address many issues usually dealt with through zoning.
Zoning has been a controversial topic in the town for years and the current city leaders decided against implementing zoning after the most recent controversy. The council had a platform of “no zoning,” but it looks like they are doing the right thing after all.
Nicholson is the only town among the nine in Jackson County that doesn’t have zoning, which has led to some of the development that is now in place.
Zoning may be a hot topic of debate, but it is the only way to protect a town from undesirable development, such as a landfill. With controlled zoning, land owners should be able to develop their property while their neighbors are still protected.
The current effort by Nicholson, referred to as a land use plan, would finally give the town some control over development. Among the items to be included are minimum requirements for lots, building codes and road requirements.
It may not be called zoning, but it’s about time Nicholson took a step forward on this issue.

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By Angela Gary
The Jackson Herald
September 25, 2002

Get involved in local government
People are quick to criticize government, but they aren’t as quick to attend the meetings and take part in what’s going on around them.
City and county government meetings are sparsely attended. The only ones in the audience are usually those who are on the agenda for some reason or another.
If there are a lot of people in the audience, I can usually count on some controversial zoning matter being on the agenda. If you’re about to zone land near someone’s property and they don’t like your plans, they will sure come out to the meeings. But how many people routinely come to city council meetings just because they care about what is going on around them. Not many. In fact, only a few.
Over the many years that I’ve covered the county board of commissioners, I’ve noticed a few faithful faces in the audience who show up even though they aren’t on the agenda. One recent face that is most always in the audience is Sonja Nelson of West Jackson.
Mrs. Nelson, who is originally from Denmark, said she has lived in Jackson County for five years. Before that, she and her husband, Jackson, traveled a good bit as he was a Merchant Marine sea captain. He even served as an elected official while they were living in Cape Cod, Mass.
Mrs. Nelson has long been a familiar face at board of commission meetings. She also isn’t shy about giving her input to the commissioners.
Mrs. Nelson says she attends because is interested in government and what is going on in the county. She thinks more people should attend these meetings.
With so many family and work commitments, it’s certainly understandable why more people don’t attend their county and city council meetings. However, these people who have never attended a meeting are usually the first to complain when elected officials do something they don’t like. Before you complain, learn more about what is going on. Show up at a meeting and get involved. Give the commissioners your input, not just when you’re mad but on a regular basis.
Board of education meetings have even fewer people in the audience than board of commission and city council meetings. You hardly ever see anyone at these meetings, yet people sure do complain about what is going on in the schools. We often get letters to the editor about a problem and phone calls from people wanting us to do something about what is going on in the schools. They should start going to the meetings themselves and find out what is going on.
Angela Gary is associate editor of The Jackson Herald and editor of The Banks County News. She can be reached at AngieEditor@aol.com.

The Commerce News
September 25, 2002

Barnes Has No Right
To Limit Our Sales Tax
Gov. Roy Barnes promises that if we re-elect him, he will will reduce the effectiveness of the Local Option Sales Tax, special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) and the education SPLOST, all of which the voters of this county supported overwhelmingly.
True, that isn’t exactly what the governor said, but that is one effect of his idea that the four days of “sales tax holidays” observed this year should become permanent.
“The people of Georgia deserve the cut, particularly on basic necessities,” the governor said.
Well and good, but state law lets counties levy sales taxes in one--cent increments; it says nothing about the right of the governor or the General Assembly to declare that on certain days of the year Jackson County cannot collect those taxes.
The original local option sales tax is used to roll back county property taxes; the SPLOST is building water and sewer lines and paving roads; the education SPLOST is providing property tax relief by building school facilities in one of the fastest growing counties in America.
Barnes can declare a “holiday” from the four cents per dollar state sales tax, but he has no right to prohibit Jackson County from collecting the sales taxes approved by the voters. It’s our tax. We’ll decide if a “tax holiday” is a good idea.

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